One of the coolest things about this stove is the ability to use propane (right side) and wood (left side.)
As I settle into my last summer here at Walnut Creek, I find myself wandering around remembering (before I'm even gone) all the things I love so deeply about this place. From the way the mesa looks at sunrise to the way the light filters through the windows in the early morning and late afternoon. Inside or out, I have camera in hand, capturing it all with the intense love I feel for this place. This is my sixth summer here (and my last.) So this summer I can bet nearly all of my posts will be in honor of the Creek (Apache/Walnut) and the Mesa (Juniper) I hold so dear. This, of course, includes things like the way the late afternoon sun lights the bottles I have collected and put on the old window sill.
Here is the same photo before editing.
In times of big water, the wild gets the upper hand and I feel a deep satisfaction inside. We cannot drive our cars, cannot cross the creeks; the roads have washed away. This year is the year of big water. The rain and snow melt from Apache Creek and the runoff from Juniper Mesa and Walnut Creek converges behind our barn.
Walnut Creek comes to meet Apache Creek and creates a flow so powerful, at times, that trees are torn free and sent down the creek. The fences keeping the cattle off the two hundred fifty acres are swiped aside in one moment by trees and debris. Animals are swept away and lodged along with other random items (garden hoses, tires, buckets) high in trees. I have happened upon squirrels, a doe and a young gray fox that lost their lives in the torrents of water cleansing these waterways.
Every year, once or twice, we head out with wire, fence tools and thick gloves to repair the water gaps and any other sections of fence destroyed by winter storms.
This winter the storms just kept coming, one after another. I didn’t believe the mud would ever end. Laundry drying on racks next to the wood stove, muddy dog prints all over the house, horses with soggy, foul-smelling hooves (horse people know what I am talking about,) and wet-dog smelling wool sweaters.
The seasons, here, get names. The grasshopper spring & summer when tiny ¼ inch grasshoppers ate every green thing that we planted in the garden (getting chickens cured that;) Kiva’s broken leg and surgery year (trampoline;) the autumn we “went off gluten”; the elk summer (when elk came every night to graze and sleep in the tall grass near the house;) the rattlesnake summer, when we saw a rattlesnake every day. Kiva nearly stepped on a Northern Black-tailed Rattlesnake (Crotalus molossuss: pictured above) and it struck her flip-flop, missing her foot by ½ inch.
This was the winter of big water and mud.
I can still hear the creek flowing loudly. Not angry like after a monsoon flash flood, but busy and happy like a group of children free to play at whatever they like, as long as they like. I will not always hear it from where I sit on the south side of the hen house. By the end of May it will be barely a whisper, a tiny voice we can only hear if we walk down to its edge.
The creek ebbs and flows, sometimes gentle, sometimes angry, sometimes giggling, sometimes sleeping. But even during the driest years, water can be found. Tiny pools swimming with quiet, struggling life. Tiny tracks up to the edge, careful not to disturb this gift of water.
Today I went for a sunny run through my beloved mountains after a morning of studying. The dogs trotted along, dodging in and out of bushes and trees. I run in the mountains with only my dogs. It is a solitary and deeply fulfilling experience. Running through forests without trails, over boulders and through creeks reminds me of the path I have chosen with horses. The path is in my heart; it is not clear; it is not paved or well traveled. I have to go with the feel, stay strong.
I found the work of Alexander Nevzorov a couple years ago while searching for a deeper way to be with my horses. Everything I found in the school’s teaching was already in my heart. I had stopped using bits, bridles and saddles years ago, even stopped riding. Becoming a student of the school was like finding a long lost friend. I could finally breathe and be myself.
Now, I spend time just hanging with my horses; I let them come to me instead of going to get them. They are no longer tools or objects for my recreation. We stretch together, lay in the sun together, go on walks together, and play games. We work on simple cordeo (loose neck cord) turns and stops from the ground, pedestal exercises, tail (back) to hand, lift and hold the leg up. I trim their feet (no shoes), study Equine Anatomy and Physiology, and do a lot of reflecting on why I have horses in my life. I love the strength and beauty in them. I love the relationship. I no longer want to control them, and they know this. Now, they will do almost anything I ask of them. The difference is that now I ask. They, as individual beings, have a right to refuse. We have developed something that is rare and beautiful (and odd, I might add, to traditional horse people.) But that is the beauty of individuality and finding your own path.
Most of my life has been lived outside the mainstream. I am used to doing things differently and because of this I am always on the outskirts (literally and figuratively.) I live in a cabin in a secluded national forest valley nestled between two mountain ranges and wilderness areas. My family, my animal friends and this land are my best friends.